On June 13, 2018, Attorney General Maura Healey filed a complaint in Massachusetts Superior Court on behalf of the Commonwealth against Purdue Pharma Inc. and Purdue Pharma L.P., Connecticut-based drug companies that manufacture and market OxyContin. The lawsuit also names sixteen individual defendants, including current and former CEOs and certain members of the board of Purdue Pharma Inc. This is not the first time a Purdue Pharma company has been accused of wrongdoing with respect to the marketing of opioids. In 2007, Purdue Frederick Company (an affiliate of Purdue Pharma L.P.) paid nearly $700 million dollars in fines and plead guilty to criminal charges, admitting that, with the intent to defraud or mislead, it marketed and promoted its drugs as less addictive and less subject to abuse.
All causes of action focus on defendants’ alleged conduct which, amidst the national opioid epidemic, the complaint claims contributed to the deaths of 11,000 Massachusetts residents in the last decade.
The complaint alleges that the defendants unfairly and deceptively marketed and promoted opioids, intentionally targeting patients and providers who were at the highest risk to abuse and overprescribe the drugs, respectively. The complaint also claims that, because of their harmful conduct which resulted in addiction, illness, death, health care costs, a loss of productivity, and special costs for public health, safety and welfare, defendants are liable under a theory of public nuisance. Healey also brings a negligence claim against defendants, citing their allegedly deceitful and targeted behavior as a violation of their duty of care to patients, prescribers, and the Commonwealth. The complaint cites to several pieces of literature sponsored by Purdue Pharma which allegedly deceived doctors and patients to continue with OxyContin longer.
The complaint alleges that defendants not only encouraged higher doses and longer duration uses of their opioids, but also attempted to keep patients away from safer alternatives by making false statements regarding the efficacy of medications such as Tylenol, ibuprofen, and lower dose opioids.
Attorney General Healey seeks, among other things, to enjoin the defendants from engaging in the actions described above, restitution for victims, and a trial by jury on all issues raised in the complaint.
This post was co-authored by Meryl Gersz, legal intern at Robinson+Cole. Meryl is not yet admitted to practice law.